Experimenting with Canvas
I was using Codepen for a lot of these experiments, the ability to quickly “fork” a pen was nice and it also gave me an easy way to share what I was doing. A music producer friend of mine, Jack Driscoll, liked what I was making and proposed we collaborate on something that reacts to music. A year later and what we’ve created is quite something.
Polyop is the name of the audio visual duo we have formed. The visuals are being generated real-time, the whole thing running inside Google Chrome. The software is currently in Beta mode and we like to call it “Polygen”.
The Polygen visual system is reactive in three ways:
- Frequency: Polygen analyses a song’s frequency so things can bounce or flash to the lows, medium or high range of the track.
- BPM: Using an external BPM detection tool, Polygen takes in a MIDI clock which allows the visuals to steadily work in time with the beat, such as the 2D sprites that are incorporated.
- MIDI: Real time note information coming out of a sequencer can be sent to the system, allowing it to visually react to specific parts of the composed track.
Fun with hardware
Amazingly, Chrome now has the ability to work with MIDI instruments. I assume the primary idea behind this will be to allow developers to write all sorts of web based audio apps allowing musicians to plug in a MIDI keyboard (or whatever else). The Polygen system makes use of this functionality, allowing for scenes and effects to be controlled by hardware.
Keeping the community (and my sanity) in mind
One of the funnest parts of creating this software has been making sure I get the architecture right. As it’s grown over the months, I’ve already overhauled the system twice, making sure the code is maintainable. I’m quite happy with how it’s all worked out. The whole thing is modular, you add a new effect by adding a new file to a folder. Scene data is saved in JSON format, so it can easily be saved/swapped out. My ultimate aim for this project is to release it as an open source thing.
Let’s make something cool!
I’m always interested in working on more projects that push the boundaries of web technology. Whether it’s using 3D libraries such as Three.js; a project that has an audio reactive element to it or you just want to make something that is plain old trippy, feel free to get in touch.